Private Smoking Bans

Blog, Civil Liberties, Peter McCaffrey

Indoor public smoking bans are now common place, but health advocates continue to push for further and further restrictions on outdoor public areas, like playgrounds, parks, outdoor dining areas, etc, and have had some success in some cities.

But what about private, non-commercial, locations. Should the government be able to regulate whether you can smoke in your own home, or in your own car? For me, at least, the answer is an obvious no – on your own property, you should make the decisions.

Less clear cut though, from a philosophical perspective, is an example from today’s Vancouver Sun:

Dozens of strata members at Vancouver’s tallest all-residential tower hooted and hollered after a motion passed Tuesday outlawing smoking in any of the building’s 237 units.

Roughly 70 strata members of the 42-storey Melville building in the city’s tony Coal Harbour neighbourhood voted to fine residents caught smoking, while about nine opposed the bylaw.

At first glance this might seem like nanny-state gone mad, telling people what they can do in their own apartments. But really, is this any different than a landlord renting their apartment to a tenant on the condition of it being a smoke-free location?

I have some concerns about a majority of unit owners in a condo being able to retrospectively change the rules for everyone who owns a unit in a condo building. But if the developer of a condo specified that all their units are to be smoke free at the time of construction, then really this kind of regulation should be perfectly acceptable as a form of free contracting. Better even than heavy handed government regulation that would prevent a developer from constructing units that did permit smoking, should they choose.